The Mormon Diaries, Part Five: Beer And Boozing In Provo, Utah

“Vere are ze black people?” Tafik scans Provo’s Main Street.

“Vere is ze rap?” Tafik scans Provo’s radio stations.

“Mr. Mac Starter Kits. Perfect for the LDS Missionary!” the joyous pitchman shells, “One Luca Rossi suit coat with two matching slacks, one waterproof Rockport walking show, four wrinkle-free shirts, three stain resistant polyester ties. For a one-time price of $395. But wait, there’s more, call now and—”

“Putain!” Tafik curses, I think, at his Toyota Camry rental car radio.

“92.5. But I have to warn you—”

“I —– on top —– like it’s hot/?And when I’m on —– bottom she —– red —–/?The middle of the bed —————– and —— and gettin ——.”

Lil Wayne urrrrs, I think, Wayne prepositions and pronouns, Lil Wayne long staticky censored bursts, and more Lil Wayne urrrrrs, prepositions, and pronouns.

“Putain!” Tafik slams the radio nob off. And scans the Provo skyline. Or tries to.

Mormons Mecca

Picture Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca. The magnificent sepulchred and domed sacred cities of the world’s great religions.

Now picture Provo, Utah. The steepled and Applebee’s-ed sacred city of the world’s quirkiest.

Mormons Provo

Billowing used car dealership blowups of white guys in white shirts and black ties flutter atop Missionary clothing storefronts. Soul-patched white men in army camo hats and rusted pickup trucks screech out of free-pistols-for-$15-purchases gun shops.

Dad’s dented Ford F-150s and Mom’s Crayola-crayoned Toyota Sienna minivans parked bumper to bumper festooned with Brigham Young University blue and white decals and the faded-but-still-prominent bumper sticker du jour:

Mormons Romney 2012

North Provo is a quixotic blend of faith, family, and sawed-off shotguns. A dreary slab of Strip Mall Americana with ubiquitous “No Skateboarding” signs, foreboding white steeples, weather-beaten gun stores, Papa Johns, “buy-2-games-get-1-free” bowling alleys, more foreboding white steeples, and, finally, Outback Steakhouse.

* * * * *

Mystique isn’t a thing in Provo. It’s not an aura, either. Mystique is a cute, gum-smacking brunette who works reception Thursdays at Outback Steakhouse.

And Mystique is ignoring us. Tafik’s Parisian sophistication is no match for the brusqueness of an iFaced girl with an hour left on her night shift.

“Bar’s in the back,” Mystique rolls her eyes back to Tyler.

Tyler’s eyes grow wide. He had one hour to go with no customers. He winces. He pretends to busy himself by wiping the unused bar top.

“Uh…hey,” Tyler starts. “Oh yeah, uh, do you intend to order food?”

We have to. In the state of Utah, you must order food at a restaurant to order a drink. It doesn’t matter if you’re not driving. “Do you intend to order food?” is essentially the reading the Miranda rights of drinking in Utah.

Savvier restaurants sell Chips & A Dip. Invariably a 99 cent bowl of nachos (two) and salsa. Savvier bar tenders shrug the Draconian drinking laws off as, “I know. It’s retarded. It’s a Utah thing”. But The Provo Outback Steakhouse is not one of the savvier restaurants. And Tyler is not one of the savvier bar tenders.

He ducks behind a frosted glass wall with Tafik’s Blooming Onion order and Chardonnay. Pokes back up. Remembers he forgot to ask my order.

“A Jack and Coke, please.”

“Uh… J-Jack and Coke,” Tyler stammers. “You sure? Uh… Ok… Jack and Coke. Uh, I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

Ten minutes seems excessive for a simple enough drink. But I am “networking”. I want to be affable. And, truthfully, we don’t have a choice. This is Provo, Utah. There are no other choices.

“Vhy does ze sissy boy go hide?”

“He has to go behind Zion’s curtain. It’s a lame Utah thing.” Mystique is one of the savvier bar tenders. She’s not interested, but some sassy French-sounding guy is more interesting than the wailing baby upfront.

Zion’s curtain is a pane of frosted glass meant to obscure the bar tender from the patron and discourage excessive orders. Governor Jon Huntsman lobbied to lower Zion’s curtain in 2009, but the motion has since stalled in Utah state senate.

It is illegal to pour alcohol in front of patrons in the state of Utah. So what unfolds is a bar Peek-A-Boo of sorts. The bartender places the order, pours it out of sight, and returns.

“But vhy?”

“It’s some dumb church thing,” iFaced Mystique rolls her eyes. “I don’t get it either. Or the clicker thing.”

The clicker thing is the white plasticky meter Utah bars and restaurants must attach to their liquor bottles that dispense exactly 1.5 ounces. Bartenders must tally each and every click in bar journals and ensure the checks add up at the end of the night.

Mormons Zion Curtain

The Mormon bartender is scared. He slinks back from behind Zion’s curtain with an old-fashioned glass bottle of Coke and some heavy-set, swarthy guy. By the looks of how quickly Mystique bolts back to the front, it’s the manager.

His name tag reads Jack.

And the Mormon bartender is scared.

* * * * *

Check out more Mormon Diaries here and here.


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